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Wednesday, 5 May 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- I am not surprised at the Government wanting power to borrow' another £500,000 to make up the shortage, because, while they were losing £20,000 a day on the purchase of sugar, and supplying sugar at the then standard price, 40 per cent, of it was going to the jam factories. Had the Government done their duty in conserving the funds of the Commonwealth, they would have stopped supplying sugar to the- jam manufacturers at those rates, seeing that the manufacturers sent their products abroad at high prices, and obtained a rebate as well.

Mr Fleming - Would the honorable member let all the fruit go bad ?

Mr RILEY - It would have been better to pay the fruit-growers compensation than to pay the extra cost for sugar. It was not very nice for the people of this eountry to see the Commonwealth losing £20,000 a day to keep sugar down to a normal price while, at the same time, wealthy manufacturers were getting 40 per cent, of it to use in the making of jams and preserved fruits to send abroad, and not bringing down their local prices. That was a very nice arrangement, but the public had to pay for it, and, consequently, the Government have to borrow another half million pounds to make up the deficiency. The Leader of the Country party (Mr. Mcwilliams) has nothing to say about that. He comes from a State which has obtained nearly all the benefit. Jones and Company, a large firm of millionaire jam manufacturers, are. located in Tasmania, and they have been making huge profits out of the arrangement. As I am reminded, the principal of that firm is the chief sup porter of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith).

Mr Laird Smith - Be fair. For a considerable time we were paying 30s. a ton more for sugar in Tasmania.

Mr RILEY - The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) sits down with the pious hope that we shall be able to produce enough sugar in this country to supply our own requirements. Of course we shall. The honorable member represents the Country party, and I am pleased to know that there are a few members of that party here. I would like them to study the return per acre from various crops, as given by Knibbs. From an acre of maize, the return is a little over £5. Taking maize, potatoes, hay, &c, it is found that the total production of those commodities throughout the whole Commonwealth averages a little over £5 or £6 per acre, and the work is hard. But what does the bonus that we are giving for the production of sugar mean ? The growers can get 2 tons of sugar off an acre, because 20 tons of cane will produce 2 tons of sugar. We are giving them about £30 a ton for sugar, which means that they are receiving a return of about £60 an acre off the land under cane. Are any other farmers in Australia obtaining such results ?

Mr Stewart - The production of cane costs more.

Mr RILEY - It costs more to work an acre of potatoes than it does to work an acre of cane. Potatoes have to be planted, dug, and handled, with one crop, whereas there are three crops from one setting of cane, and the second and third are better than the first. Sugar canegrowing is the more profitable form of production.

Mr Stewart - We will all give up our farms and grow cane!

Mr RILEY - It would be found profitable to do so. While we have been making up all the loss, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which some of my friends opposite so strenuously support, has made a profit of over £1,000,000 in the last three years ; and those profits are increased under the agreement.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That company cannot make anything like the profits that are made on wool-tops.

Mr RILEY - That is no argument. If the sugar profits were made out of foreign growers it would be a different matter, but they are made out of the people of this country, whom we are here to represent and protect, and to whom, unless we do represent and protect them, we are not doing our duty.

All this is only a portion of what might be said about sugar production. I can see that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is ready to jump up and say a few words for the Colonial Sugar Kenning Company; but I represent the consumer, the poor- people who have to pay double the price they paid before the last election. The price was kept down to 3d. per lb. before the elections, notwithstanding the fact that there was a loss of £20,000 a day. That loss, however, was kept secret, and we saw how, after the elections, up went the price of sugar to over 6d.

The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) tells us that this is only a " little " Bill, which he hopes honorable members will not discuss ; but he cannot expect the House to accept the position quietly. If everybody got as good a return as is obtained from sugar we should all be wealthy in a few years, but we are paying too much for sugar at the present time, and too much is done for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

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